07/11/12 — Rob Wooten pitching in Brewers' organization

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Rob Wooten pitching in Brewers' organization

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 11, 2012 1:48 PM

There was time when Rob Wooten wondered if he would ever pitch again.

Now, he's patiently waiting for his chance to pitch on baseball's grandest stage.

A former standout at Charles B. Aycock and the University of North Carolina, Wooten was selected by Milwaukee in the 13th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball draft. The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2010 season.

Wooten questioned his future and if he would return to the form of the pitcher who helped guide UNC to a pair of College World Series appearances.

Those doubts were silenced through a relentless effort to set foot on the mound again and to fulfill his dream of reaching baseball's highest level. Wooten is currently a relief pitcher with the Nashville Sounds, a Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. He has regained life on his fastball, his offspeed pitches are more effective and most importantly, he is pitching without pain.

"There's always doubts," Wooten said. "You're not human if you don't have doubts. I knew I would have all the resources to work my way back. There were times even last season when I felt good and times when I didn't good.

"Now, I feel better than ever and I'm 100 percent healthy. My velocity is up and my breaking stuff is back to where it was in 2009."

Wooten began this season in Double-A Huntsville and appeared in 17 games before being called up to Nashville. Facing quality hitters in Triple-A, many who have Major League experience, has been an adjustment for Wooten that has led to mixed results.

In his last 10 outings, Wooten has six scoreless appearances. In the other four, Wooten surrendered seven runs (all earned) on 10 hits. In 37 appearances this season between Huntsville and Nashville, Wooten is 3-0 with a 3.60 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 17 walks in 45 innings pitched.

Not having a designated role in the bullpen and being called on to pitch in a close ballgame one day while working in a lopsided affair the next night has also taken some getting used to for Wooten.

"This game will put you on your tail," Wooten said. "One second things are going great and there's also been some outings where I've gotten flat out beaten by guys. There have been other times where balls have found some holes and I've given up cheap runs.

"Every player goes through a time when things don't go right. I know I can't come in too high or get too low."

Wooten has watched patiently throughout his minor league career as close friends and teammates have been promoted or gone on to a different organization. Now just a step away from fulfilling his boyhood dream of playing in the Major Leagues, Wooten works hard to stay focused on his goals while remaining confident that his time will come.

"I've had a bunch of my friends get called up and it's hard not think that should be me," Wooten said. "You can't control what other people do, you can only control what you do. It makes things easier when you worry about what you're doing.

"We're all trying to win games and reach the same goal but we're also competing against each other. It's a tough business for sure."